The upward trend of college merit aid

by Grace

‘It’s all about competing for the best students.’

And about boosting college rankings?

Studies by the National Association for College Admission Counseling showed that in the mid-1990s, a large majority of colleges provided financial aid based only on need; but that by 2007, nearly as many provided aid based on perceived merit, academic or otherwise.

“The most elite institutions in the United States have historically had policies that they would not give aid for any reason other than financial need,” said Jerome Sullivan, executive director of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers. “But there were always exceptions, and since the ’80s, you’ve seen more and more schools shift away from that. It’s all about competing for the best students.”

College Offers Top Applicants Two-Thirds Off – NYT


5 Comments to “The upward trend of college merit aid”

  1. But if you go back further than the 90s, you’ll see that aid started out as almost purely merit-based, then swung to almost purely need-based. It is now mostly need-based, with tiny amounts of merit-based aid.


  2. It’s good to know the long-term history, which puts the recent trend into perspective. I just saw numbers that indicated merit-based aid comprised about 20% of total. I’m wondering if that’s what you mean by “tiny”. pp 14-16


  3. Thanks for the pointer. I was surprised to see merit-based aid making up 22% of the total aid—that was somewhat higher than I thought. It is still a small proportion of the aid, but not tiny. (I had thought that merit-based aid made up less than 10% of total aid, but that may have been influenced by being at a public university that gives almost no merit-based aid.)


  4. gasstation – Your comments have inspired a future post. Thank you!


  5. Merit aid varies a lot by institution. Second tier privates give a lot, while large publics give little or no merit aid.


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